Recently I have had the luck of being around some pretty good equipment. Including some very nice converters. I have heard the Lynx22 , apogee rosetta, and a pro tools rig. All sounded very nice. I couldn't really pick out much because I dont know how much of the sound I was hearing was contributed to the pre,mic,or effects. But I did know that the sound quality of the recordings were exellent.
BUT I havent had the chance to hear some of the mid grade, or pro sumer converters out there. I hear alot of talk about benchmark,apogee,and lucid. But I havent heard anything about M-Audio,Echo, or Aardvark? Can someone tell me just how BIG of a differance there are between the mid priced converters compared to the Pro converters, i.e. over a $1000 to under a $1000?
Is this differance just apparent to "golden ears" how hard does the normal music listener have to listen in order to hear the differance. And if its a small differance can it be "greatly improved" by mastering?
The differences in any gear is more related to your ability to be able to hear those differences. The weakest link in the chain theory applies here. If your signal and monitoring chain is not able provide the necessary detail for you to hear, you will not be able to notice the differences and what differences you do hear are not really true to their nature.
The difference in converters of one being better than another is not so much the converters themselves as it is in what should be called the whole conversion system. Many of the converision systems sold use the same exact off the shelf converter chips. What truely makes one better than another is the analog circuits that support those converter chips as well as how stable the system clock is, how artifacts are dealt with, and how well it can be synced to another clock source. The ability to do all these things makes one worth more than another and to do all those things well requires higher grade components and tighter tolerences in the whole system and that always costs more money.
Once the conversion has taken place and any damge from poor conversion has been done, it can't be undone. Mastering can make something sound better, but it can't fix those kind of problems.